Detroit — Oskar Sundqvist returned to the ice Tuesday, taking part in the Red Wings’ morning skate.
It’s taken a while. Sundqvist hasn’t played since Oct. 26 and missed the last six games, likely longer than anyone anticipated for the upper-body injury Sundqvist has been dealing with.
But Sundqvist is finally sensing a breakthrough.
“I didn’t think it would take that long,” said Sundqvist, who could return to the lineup as soon as Thursday. “It’s all good now, and trying to get one more practice with the full team and then get going again.”
Sundqvist wasn’t the only rehabilitating Red Wing back on the ice Tuesday. Sundqvist was joined by Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body, only played two games thus far), Jake Walman (shoulder), Robby Fabbri (knee) and Mark Pysyk (Achilles) on the ice, as the Wings could be getting healthier, which could be really intriguing for a team that is winning.
As far as updates, coach Derek Lalonde did paint a promising picture.
Sundqvist is day-to-day and could return Thursday against the New York Rangers. Bertuzzi and Walman both could return to the lineup during next week’s California road trip. Fabbri and Pysyk are still on schedule to return around Jan. 1 after their offseason surgeries.
One down note for the Wings: Filip Zadina will miss six to eight weeks after suffering a lower-body injury after blocking a shot Thursday against Washington.
“Not positive, but a little more optimistic than what we originally thought,” Lalonde said of the Zadina timetable.
Lalonde is excited about the possibility of a full lineup again, though he isn’t taking anything for granted. Also, the Wings who’ve replaced the injured players have done a more than admirable job.
“You still hope to get there, and staying healthy,” Lalonde said. “But, again, like we’ve talked when these rash of injuries (hit), we like our depth. We addressed it in the offseason. Even those nights when we had four, five, or six guys out, we had a winnable lineup and our guys played as such.
“Of course we’d like to get to that point (complete healthy lineup) and have that good problem (of deciding who plays where, dividing ice time).”
Lalonde liked the positive energy having all the injured players on the ice brought.
“It’s a good one (mood),” Lalonde said. “Just the personalities, too. Obviously we miss Sunny (Sundqvist), he’s a heavy body and gives us something we really don’t have. He was excellent net-front, and in our top four penalty kill.
“And he’s a personality, he’s big in the (locker) room.”
Sundqvist missed all of training camp and the exhibition season with an undisclosed injury, but returned for season opener.
This injury, Sundqvist said, had nothing to do with the other one.
“It was just an unfortunate hit and it happens,” Sundqvist said. “I didn’t think it was anything serious at first. But we did take a closer look at it and it was worse than expected. So, I just took some time off and let it heal.”
With players such Sundqvist and Bertuzzi out (and Michael Rasmussen suspended for two games, having returned last week), players such as Matt Luff and Austin Czarnik (Washington Township) were recalled from Grand Rapids and contributed in many ways.
The benefits of veterans such as Luff and Czarnik over a younger prospect such as Jonatan Berggren is the experience factor.
“There’s experience there,” Lalonde said. “Berggren, if he sees time (in the NHL), it would probably be more of a bigger window of time. Let him keep developing down there. If we need a player for a two- or three-week span, where we could develop him on the fly a little … but right now, those two (Luff, Czarnik) have been excellent. They understand our system, they’re safe with little risk in their game, they created some offense a little bit the other night (Sunday, Luff with a goal, Czarnik with a quality chance).”
Czarnik, 29, who attended Romeo before joining the Plymouth Township-based US Development Team Program, was excited to put on the Wings jersey. Czarnik has 143 NHL games (and 15 goals) in his career with Boston, Calgary, the New York Islanders and Seattle.
“It’s a dream come true, just like every kid says,” he said. “To be able to play here, I remember growing up I had my room wallpapered with the Red Wings. So to come around full (circle), I’m excited and I’m honored to do it.”
Czarnik has five goals and 10 points in eight games in Grand Rapids before joining the Wings.
“Down there it’s about building confidence and playing the right way,” Czarnik said. “When you’re able to produce it helps you gain confidence and get a shot. It’s great to play the minutes down there and get ready for an opportunity up here.”